Cody Mcfadyen

Hodder & Stoughton pbk £6.99

Released: February 4th 2010

Reviewer: Adrian Magson


Adrian Magson is the author of the Riley Gavin/Frank Palmer series published by Crème de la Crime.  Visit  www.adrianmagson.com for more.


FBI Agent Smoky Barrett is attending the wedding of one her colleagues and close friends when a nightmare is dumped right in front of her from a passing car. It is in the form of a deeply traumatised woman whom they eventually determine has been missing for over seven years. Worse, she shows signs of having been kept shackled in isolation and out of the sunlight for all that time. 

This heralds the start of one of the most horrifying crimes Smoky Barrett has had to deal with – and if anyone should know about horror, it is Barrett; her own daughter and husband were murdered in front of her and she has suffered hideous scarring to her face and body at the hands of the killer. 

It soon becomes clear that the person who kept the woman prisoner has committed the same crime before. Proof of that begins to mount as other long-term victims turn up, but in far worse shape, depending on one’s viewpoint. For, unlike the first woman, these others have been lobotomised, preserving life yet consigning them to a living, drooling death. The only problem is, with no communicative victims – even the first one, a former cop, cannot tell them anything helpful - how does the FBI even begin to get on the trail of the person responsible? Any why keep them, only to release them in this almost-dead state? 

Well, proving you should be careful what you wish for, it’s not long before Barrett finds out; kidnapped and Tasered, she is shackled in a totally black ‘tomb’ with no explanation and no sign of who is doing this – or why. And with every indication that she might be kept for a similar length of time, and knowing what has been done to others before her, it is almost too much for her to take in. 

Cody McFadyen’s fans will find everything they have come to expect in this further outing, with enough tension to make the air snap. 

For others, though, there may be simply too much death involved. Every character seems drenched in it, from Barrett and her detailed history, to that of her team, including a female friend who’s a professional assassin. Even her own adopted daughter, Bonnie, whose birth-mother was sliced to death right in front of her cannot wait to begin gun-practice and start nailing other killers by joining the FBI, yet whose habit of cutely calling Barrett ‘Momma-Smoky’ grates like nails on a blackboard. 

Maybe I’m a wuss, but it raised the question for me as to what point a book nudges over the line from thriller into horror, with a capital ‘H’ big enough to land a helicopter on it.






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